They’re sometimes known as the eighth wonder of the world, and are an immense symbol of China’s national pride and power. But how deep does your knowledge of the incredible Terracotta Warriors actually go? Here are some top facts to get you started.
1. We’ve only uncovered a small fraction of the total ‘army’ of figures: experts currently place the entire number of soldiers at 8,000 – with 130 chariots, 530 horses and 150 cavalry horses helping to ward of any dangers in the afterlife. So far only just over 1,000 soldiers are on display at the emperor’s famous mausoleum, near the ancient capital of Xi’an, Shaanxi province.
- Terracotta Warrior
- Terracotta Warriors and horses
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2. In fact, archaeologists have just recently begun to excavate the third of the three burial pits containing the warriors. Work commenced on Saturday, June 6th this year and is expected to proffer at least hundreds more of the famous figures. This time, however, experts are keen to keep the vivid colours, found on all terracotta warriors thus far, intact. All previous soldiers have turned an oxidised grey when exposed to air.
3. The Chinese historian Sima Qian wrote in the 2nd century BC – a full hundred years after the Emperor’s death – that over 700,000 men took 36 years to create his terracotta army. Modern historians feel Sima may have been slightly economical with the truth, and argue as few as 16,000 men could have done the job in just two years.
4. The First Qin Emperor didn’t just want an army to protect him in the afterlife: a 1999 excavation at the site uncovered eleven terracotta acrobats and strongmen. Popular performers 2,000 years ago, the acts would have been meant to entertain the emperor in his journey through the afterlife.
5. ‘The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army’ at London’s British Museum, held between September 2007 and April 2008, comprised 120 of the warriors and was the most successful event in the museum’s history. It even surpassed the feverish popularity of King Tut’s 1972 appearance.
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Qin Shi Huang was terrified of death – but allegedly died from taking too many mercury pills, which he thought would give him immortality
6. The First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was terrified of death and was constantly searching for the so-called ‘elixir of life’. After allegedly sending 8,000 people on expeditions to find his cure unsuccessfully (they never returned, knowing they’d be killed without the elixir – legend says they founded Japan), Qin relied on mercury tablets in increasing doses, until they killed him aged 50. How ironic.
7. The Emperor was extremely proud of his cavernous tomb. So proud, in fact, that he promptly murdered its creators to sustain a resounding enigma which endures to this day. Only recently have probes entered the giant subterranean complex, which contains high levels of mercury – appearing to confirm the above legend.
8. Though each terracotta warrior is unique, experts believe a set number of facial moulds were actually used, before workmen added clay to make each one distinct. Each limb and the head was created separately before being fixed to the torso.
9. The poor old warriors had a torrid 2008. Not only were seven of those in China damaged by a huge earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale, but two being paraded in London became unwitting political protesters. Martin Wyness and Mark Trepte, from Hereford, England, placed placards on the soldiers bearing the messages ‘China Stop Killing Tibetans’ and ‘Boycott the Chinese Olympics’. The soldiers were unavailable to comment.
10. You won’t just find terracotta warriors in the middle of China, or the world’s biggest museums. The living terracotta warrior, or Chi Chang to his friends, has been sent out onto the streets of Washington, DC ahead of the city’s National Geographic Museum’s terracotta warriors exhibition.
Courtesy: Heritage key – Unlock the wonders